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Vote advances county phone system

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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A new Voice over Internet Protocol phone system for Jefferson County offices is one vote away.


The Board of Legislators' Finance and Rules Committee recommended awarding a contract to CDW-G, Pittsford, to install a Cisco Systems Inc. system for $926,131. The committee met Tuesday night and had a split 4-2 vote.


"I'm not opposed to the telephone upgrades, but I think we need to look at all IT," said Kent D. Burto, R-West Carthage. "Let's do the right thing and let's reject the bid and open it up to everybody and serve the taxpayers."


Mr. Burto and committee Chairman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, opposed the measure.


Jennie M. Adsit, R-Watertown, Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown, James D. St. Croix, D-Watertown, and Gino M. Zando, R-Deferiet, voted for the contract. Robert D. Thomas, R-Glen Park, was absent.


The full board will consider the contract at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Legislature's chambers, 195 Arsenal St.


"The pricing we're getting is really good," said Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, a member of the ad hoc Information Technology Committee that considered the bid result for the past few weeks.


"I think the IT department and Finance and Rules have done a good job allocating to save money for purchases such as this," said Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown. "I would've liked to look at other alternatives, but that wasn't my charge."


Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent, said he and other members of the ad hoc Government Efficiency Committee had endorsed the plan to buy the system under the impression that the savings was a result of the purchase.


"Our phones work now and they'll work with the Voice over Internet with the equipment we have now," he said. "We should use the savings to pay down the tax levy and in better times, use it to modernize equipment."


Legislature Chairman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said he thought the money was set aside in a reserve account.


Treasurer Nancy D. Brown said the money was appropriated in a line but not reserved and can be transferred to anything.


The county chose Cisco when it looked for a system to upgrade The WorkPlace, 1000 Coffeen St., when the Department of Employment and Training moved there. That decision was based on recommendations from users.


So far, a $32,000 grant from the federal Workforce Investment Act was joined by about $70,000 in county money on the new system, the core of which was installed in the County Office Building and phones installed in the historic courthouse.


The state was told the system would be upgraded as part of a countywide upgrade later in the summer. Equipment and phones for The WorkPlace are sitting in the basement of the County Office Building.


The bid process solicited Cisco vendors on the state contract, which eliminated all local phone system vendors. The system will provide faster and more secure data services for county offices, on top of reliable phone service that is uniform in all of the county buildings.


Current phone provider CREG Systems Corp. again asked for a chance to bid on an update to the phone and data system.


"CREG Systems can give you a lower number and put in all the data and phone equipment you want, all the bells and whistles and features," said Kris W. Allen, CREG chairman of the board.


Some legislators asked why he didn't say this in earlier meetings.


"I didn't get any indication that there is another option," said Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing.


Mr. Allen said, "The way to recognize it is to put it out to a bid process."


Mr. Blankenbush said he wanted to meet with the Information Technology Committee and Mr. Allen again before Tuesday's vote.

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